Friday, March 12, 2010

Indiana high school student sues over graduation prayer

Ah, always good to see freethinkers in Indiana! Or at the very least, young people who support the separation of church and state:
A Greenwood High School honor student who learned in class about court rulings striking down school prayer has found a real-world application -- his own graduation ceremony.

Eric Workman's lawsuit, filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, challenges the high school's practice of allowing seniors to vote on whether to have a student-led prayer at graduation.

ACLU attorney Ken Falk said allowing the vote and even having the prayer run afoul of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found prayers at public school-sponsored events to violate the First Amendment.

"This is particularly egregious when it's coming from a student who's going to be sitting on the stage," Falk said. Workman, 18, is ranked first in his class, the lawsuit says.

Good for him! It can be difficult to deal with small religious towns in Indiana, and this kid is probably getting a lot shit for what he's doing. So I send kudos his way for helping keep church and state separated!

Of course, not everyone is as understanding...

The Rev. Shan Rutherford, pastor of Greenwood Christian Church for more than three decades, said he disagrees with the proposition that such a prayer would violate a student's rights.

"If I lived in a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation or anything else, I would expect to go along with the majority," Rutherford said. "He's trying to go with minority rule. To me, that's wrong in a democracy, one that was founded on Christian principles."

"If you don't agree, I don't think you should try to stop other people from exercising their rights."
Rev. Rutherford, I think you need to sit in on that government class Workman learned so much from.

Anyone who still claims that America was founded on Christian principles shows how little they know about our government's history, since that trope has been destroyed over and over. But worse than that is his failure to comprehend the idea of "majority rule, minority rights." Just because Christians are in the majority doesn't mean they get to have everything their way, especially when it infringes upon the rights of the minority. Removing a school prayer doesn't make it an atheist ceremony, representing a majority of Americans - it makes it a secular ceremony, representing everyone. I would be just as a against someone getting up on stage an talking about how there is no God, religion is stupid, and anyone who believes in God is deluded. That would be totally inappropriate for a public school graduation, just as a prayer would.

Ah, Christian persecution complex. Lovely, isn't it?

(Hat tip to Tom)


  1. Those prayers are long and annoying anyways, and nobody pays any attention to them. They're all thinking about the party afterward! :)

  2. Ugh. We practically had a sermon at my high school graduation way back in 2005 (one of our "guest speakers" was a preacher). I was a Christian at that time, and even then I felt like it was inappropriate.

  3. I wonder how happy this "pastor" (conman) would be with a majority Islamic US population..say in about 50 years....saying their prayers to "allah".

  4. Why cant the prayer happen for those who want it. And if you dont then just be respectful of others and be quiet and patient during the prayer. Why should those who want the prayer go without? The prayer doesnt and shouldnt be long but it should be provided for those who want it.

  5. Anonymous, having any sort of prayer is disrespectful to anybody who happens not to subscribe to the specific sect from which that prayer is drawn. "Why should they go without?" Well, why should those who want there to be a prayer to the FSM or Chthulhu not have that prayer?

    If we take your argument to its logical conclusion, they'd have to pray to EVERY SINGLE BLOODY GOD EVER INVENTED because somebody might happen to want that. Isn't that ridiculous?

  6. Or here's this little nugget for you anonymous: I want a strip show at graduation. Why can't everyone who doesn't want one just shut up and sit there while I get what I want?

    Or we can go with, let's not have anything that's inappropriate for a public school graduation. Let's have the valedictorian say some crap about how they can't believe we finally made it followed by a long reading of names and handing out of papers. Then you and you family can go out to a special graduation dinner and pray there if you feel so inclined.

  7. JT, your comments remind me of my own high school graduation a couple of years back... they wouldn't let me give my speech about how trite and banal everybody else's speeches were going to be, and about how insignificant of an event in the grand scheme of things high school graduation was.

    I need to go find that speech at some point; I quite liked it. Of course I made sure to pass around copies of it after graduation since they wouldn't allow me to deliver it...

  8. Taking away someone's rights is telling them they can't go to prom with their date because they are gay. No one is taking away anyone's rights by not allowing them to force their religious views on an audience at a state funded event.

  9. @ Anonymous
    Why is it that people only find it respectful if people have to sit through a prayer and not respectful for people to have their prayers individually and in private?

    In a country where there is freedom of religion it should also be that people are not subjected to another persons religion if they do not choose to.

    Are Christians willing to sit through a prayer to Allah or a ceremony to thank Shiva??

  10. This came up in our Atheist Meetup last night. I suggested that, to begin his valedictorian speech, young Mr. Workman could edify and educate the Christians with a reading from Matthew:

    6:1 - Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

    6:5 & 6:6 - And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.